16) Blood on the Page by Thomas Harding
I love a bit of true crime – and on this, at least going by Netflix charts, I am not alone. So I’ve come across my fair share of the bizarre and weird in books and films alike – but this is one of the strangest and oddest true crime stories I’ve read, and I still don’t quite know what I make of it even now. It involves the death of an old man in Hampstead, a Chinese man being charged with his murder and, strangely, the fact that the entire trial was held in secret. Indeed, the author is personally warned not to even speculate in this book on the potential reasons for the secrecy….
It’s a detailed and fascinating trail that Harding leads us along – understanding Alan Chappelow’s background (the victim), investigating Wang Yam’s past crimes and relationships (the convicted murderer), and also looking into a whole range of similar crimes, police mistakes, and other intriguing lines of enquiry. These are only made more intriguing by the secrecy around the trial – a search online about the crime indicates that perhaps Yam was also an MI6 informant, and had been a pro-democracy campaigner in China. Who knows… Chappelow is revealed as something of a left-leaning literary hermit, while Yam is a story teller, who is difficult to take at face value, even if he strikes one as a low-level conman, rather than a cold-blooded killer.
So I’m left in an interesting position on this one – I really found the book fascinating, and became really absorbed by the tales, the backstories, the characters and the nature of the crime on a leafy street in Hampstead. But those who seek resolution from their crime reading will be somewhat disappointed – as is often the case in real life, the ends are not neatly tied up here, and the bigger questions remain unanswered. For me, at least, everything I got from the journey made up for the final destination not being as satisfying as I’d hoped.
BUY IT NOW: Blood on the Page: WINNER of the 2018 Gold Dagger Award for Non-Fiction